Director Tim Burton is notorious for his inventive, unique brand(s) of images he puts into his films, and a style that seems to regenerate in each film he does (though not always successfully- Planet of the Apes proved that). Now there's Big Fish, a film loaded with visual spectacle, and it shows Burton working an adaptation to his own advantage for the first time in years. Here he tells a story about storytelling, using both make-up, sets, and CGI at his disposal, and it's about one man's own imagination and how he carried it on to others, whether they were delighted by the tall tales or not.
This man is Edward Bloom, played by both Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor, and they both deliver wonderful work here as the dying Bloom still telling stories of adventures and the young Bloom playing them out, respectively. As do Billy Crudup as Edward's son William, who's grown weary of his father telling the story of his birth (involving a catch of a big fish), among many others, and all he wants now at his deathbed is the truth. Jessica Lange is also dependable as Edward's wife Sandy, the love of each other's lives.
What's so alluring about the world Burton creates (based on the novel by Daniel Pierce, which I imagine must be loaded with vivid description) is that he simply builds on the world Edward created for his and his family's amusement. Stories like the visit to the town of Spectre, and that town's most known poet Norther Winslow (Steve Buscemi in one of the film's highlighted supporting roles); the years spent working for nothing in the circus for Amos (Danny DeVito, another note of interest) just to know more about Sandy, whom he sees frozen in time; his stint in the war, etc. All of the people and environments that are reveled are done so with many visual effects, but they're the kind that help build on Burton's vision instead of depleting it. Even if a scene may have dialog or acting that could be taken as over the top, the storytelling is on par with some of Burton's best work (i.e. Batman, Edward Scissorhands, and even the somewhat recent Sleepy Hollow).
The best thing that can be said about Big Fish, even to those who might not like it, is that the journeys and stories taken in the film, by real and 'elaborated' real characters, generate a film as a delight for all ages. That it also has comedy along with drama (grounded in a sense of humanity for both) is also a feat accomplished well by the actors. To me, this is one of the better films of the year. Grade- A
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